'Lost' Showrunners Carlton Cuse And Damon Lindelof Say Island Was Not A Purgatory, Reveal More Answers At PaleyFest Panel
Showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof finally set the record straight about the infamously unsatisfying Lost series finale when they reunited with members of the Lost cast for a panel at PaleyFest on Sunday, March 16.
Lindelof and Cuse introduced a screening of part one of the two-hour series finale, “Exodus (Part 1),” which originally aired in 2010. Following the screening the creators were joined by a few principal members of the cast for a panel discussion, celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the airing of the Lost pilot in 2004. Present for the panel were Josh Holloway (Sawyer), Jorge Garcia (Hurley), Yunjin Kim (Sun), Maggie Grace (Shannon), Ian Somerhalder (Boone), Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond Hume) and Malcolm David Kelley (Walt).
'Lost' Island Was Not Purgatory
When the final episode of Lost aired, fans were at a loss as to what it meant. The finale answered few questions, including mysteries first brought up in season 1 – what were the polar bears doing on the island, etc. – and many interpreted the finale as meaning the characters were dead the entire time of the series. The theory was that the doomed passengers of the fictional Oceanic Flight 815 had died in the plane crash and their adventures on the island were actually a purgatory. The ending of the show, in which Jack (Matthew Fox), a main character, died and found himself in a chapel with all the other characters, both alive and dead, signaling his arrival to the afterlife, seemed to confirm the theory for some, but Cuse firmly debunked the idea, telling the audience, “No, they were not dead the entire time.”
“Very early on we had decided that even though Lost is a show about people on the island, really, metaphorically, it was about people who were lost and searching for meaning and purpose in their lives. And because of that, we felt the ending really had to be spiritual, and one that talks about destiny. We would have long discourses about the nature of the show, for many years, and we decided it needed to mean something to us and our belief system and the characters and how all of us are here to lift each other up in our lives,” Cuse explained.
In the end, Lindelof added, the introduction of Jack to the afterlife was not an escape from purgatory, but an idea of what happens after you die – suggesting that all of Jack’s trials on the island in previous seasons had all occurred in real life.
“For us, one of the ongoing conversations with the audience and there was a very early perception, was that the island was purgatory and we were always out there saying, ‘It’s not purgatory, this is real, we’re not going to Sixth Sense you.’ And we felt it too that the show had to become sort of meta in this way. And so the writers said, ‘Obviously there are all these mysteries. But what if we answered a mystery that was never asked, what’s the meaning of life and what happens when you die?’” Lindelof added.
It’s safe to say that cast members were equally confused by the show’s many mysteries. Garcia, who was just promoted as a series regular on Hawaii 5-0, which stars fellow Lost alum Daniel Dae Kim, revealed his favorite fan theory on the show, saying, “I had a guy once say that when the plane was in the air, we were all cloned, and the story was really about our clones.”
'Lost' Cast: Constant Fear Of Being Killed Off Show
The actors dished about what it was like to learn their character’s were being killed off the show – Somerhalder, who was the first major death in Season 1, took it gracefully and with a bit of wine – and about being constantly afraid of being killed off.
Ian S: I was glad I drank a bottle of Pinot when I heard Boone was getting killed. Lindelof to Ian: you were a pro. Said you could play it— Paley Center (@paleycenter) March 17, 2014
Talking on the panel, Lindelof revealed that Daniel Dae Kim pestered him about his character’s life expectancy on the show so that he could decide whether or not he should buy a house in Hawaii, where they shot the show. (Side note: the actor still lives in Hawaii, where he shoots Hawaii 5-0.)
Lindelof also touched on the well-known truth that Jack, the first character introduced in the pilot, died in the original pilot script. The intent was for them to kill off a character featured heavily in the promotions for the show, sending a message to the viewers that all bets were off where Lost was concerned. The creators revealed that they changed their minds after receiving notes from network and studio executives.
“[They said] ‘If you [do that] in the pilot, the audience will never trust you again and never form emotional bonds with the characters.’ It ended up being a great note,” Lindelof admitted.
Besides constantly wondering whether or not their character would survive the next episode, the actors agreed that they knew very little of their characters when they began filming, and even as the seasons wore on. Kim, for example, said that the one thing she did know about her character while shooting the pilot was that she could understand English, a secret that later expanded Sun’s backstory. Cusick admitted that he was completely in the dark when he joined the cast in season 2, saying, “I knew nothing.”
The actors also recounted a few behind-the-scenes antics, much to the audience’s delight. Somerhalder revealed that Grace once pranked him after a long day at work by going into a kissing scene with a mouthful of garlic and cigar smoke. Grace called the incident, “one of my proudest moments.”
'Lost' Mystery: Who Was On The Outrigger?
Less funny reveals from the panel included a pseudo answer to a remaining mystery from season five’s episode “The Little Prince.” In the episode, Sawyer and Juliet head out off the island on an outrigger canoe only to be confronted with another outrigger whose passengers open fire. A time shift prevents them from ever uncovering the identity of those in the other outrigger, and the question of their identity was never answered. Lindelof insists that the writers did, indeed, write a scene for the final season that explained the outrigger, but decided it was one mystery better left unsolved.
“We wrote that scene, and it was going to air in the final season, and it definitely answered who was on the outrigger. But all the writers… thought it would be much cooler not to answer…. The scene exists on paper. Years from now, for some excellent charity, we’ll probably auction it off,” Lindelof teased.
Cuse says that he and Lindelof both believed that the purpose of the show was not to address every plot question or discrepancy, but to complete the emotional journey of the characters.
“We [preferred] to tell an emotional story about what happened to the characters. I cared more about the characters’ journey and what happened to them,” Cuse said.
– Olivia Truffaut-Wong
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